Thursday, May 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India


P U N J A B    S T O R I E S



Dappar depot draws up emergency plan
Bipin Bhardwaj

Chandigarh, May 2
The devastating fire at the ammunition depot at Mamoon cantonment in Pathankot has forced the authorities at the ammunition depot, Dappar, about 25 km from here, to formulate an “evacuation and abandonment plan” for villages falling in the periphery.

Under the plan, whenever an emergency occurs, more than 32,000 residents of 11 villages are to be shifted to safer places along with their movable property. The villages falling within a radius of 3 km from the depot will be evacuated, sources said.

The Defence Ministry had issued a notification banning any type of construction within 700 yards of the perimeter fence in 1986 but the ban could not be enforced and people constructed tenements and jhuggis there. Besides, villagers constructed houses within the 3 km radius.

Highly-placed sources confirmed that 11 villages — Dappar, Lehli, Janetpur, Issanpur Jangi, Chandiala, Amlala, Ber Majra, Hasanpur, Karkour, Baroli and Toganpur — had been identified for evacuation. In case of fire at the ammunition depot, massive destruction could occur within a radius of 3 km from the depot, the sources warned.

The sources revealed that the Defence Ministry had drawn up a plan to ban any type of construction within a radius of 2,000 yards from the depot, but an official notification had not been issued so far.

Taking a strong view of devastating fires at ammunition depots in Bharatpur and Kargil during the past two years, the Defence Ministry had directed the authorities of the Dappar depot to draw up a disaster management plan which could be implemented in case of any emergency.

Officials at the Dappar depot refused to comment on the issue saying that only the higher authorities were competent to do so.

When contacted, Mr Sher Singh Sidhu, SDM, Dera Bassi, confirmed the evacuation and abandonment plan, saying that the local administration was fully prepared and places had been identified where the villagers along with their cattle and goods would be shifted in case of emergency.

Under the plan there is a provision for setting up a round-the-clock control room at the Tehsildar’s office. In case of emergency, fire engines will be arranged from Chandigarh, Ambala, Panchkula, SAS Nagar, Rajpura, Sirhind, Patiala and Dera Bassi apart from those available at the Dappar depot.

The residents would be shifted to nearby safer villages falling at a distance of 5 km from their actual villages. The evacuated persons would be kept in several areas, including Nagla, Lalru, Dera Bassi, Saidpura, Haibatpura and Issanpur, added Mr Sidhu.

Various government buildings, including schools and colleges, community halls, panchayat ghars and even vacant factory sheds had been identified for sheltering the evacuated villagers. Transporters and truck unions would be asked to extend help when required. However, hospitals and dispensaries would not be used for this purpose.

The local authorities have already made an announcement in this regard by beating of drum in 11 villages, following which panic has gripped the area and residents are feeling insecure.

Meanwhile, residents alleged that construction activities had been carried out by the authorities of the Dappar ammunition depot without any fear though they were restraining them from doing so. The government should have issued directions banning construction work well in time. It was too late in the day to stop construction as the area had already developed, they added.


Army starts cleaning ammo debris
Our Correspondent

Pathankot, May 2
The Army has started clearing the debris of ammunition caused due to a major fire that broke out at an ammunition depot in Mamun cantonment on Sunday.

According to sources, it will take a day or two to remove the debris of then early 40 tonnes of ammunition.

Life in the nearby villages of Mamun, Lamini and Suniti has returned to normal. Some people, however, still have fears about sudden blasts from the debris of the ammunition scattered in and around the depot to meet any type of eventuality.

According to military sources, a court of inquiry headed by a colonel is likely to start investigation shortly. Lieut-Gen Gurpreet Singh, and Major-Gen S.S. Uppal of the Northern Command visited the site last evening.

The SDM, Mr K.K. Garg, said here today that no loss of life and property had been reported so far.

The gram panchayat of Mamun, Sunitri and Kuthiar, however have decided to stage a dharna in front of the ammunition depot to force the military authorities to shift it elsewhere.

Mr Gian Chand Kada, president of the Mamun unit of the BJP, said the ammunition depot should not be located near residential areas.

The gram panchayat have also decided to send representatives to the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister, urging them to shift the ammunition depot. 


Arhtiyas threaten stir over slow lifting of wheat
Manoj Kumar
Tribune News Service

Khanna, May 2
Despite government claims the lifting of wheat in the Asia’s biggest Khanna mandi, has come to a halt. The non-availability of gunny bags and the non-payment of the amounts to the farmers by the agencies have further aggravated the situation. The arhtiyas and farmers have threatened an agitation if the situation does not improve immediately.

A visit to the local mandi today revealed that about 50 per cent of the wheat in the market have not been lifted. Mr Sadhu Ram, president of the local Arhtiyas’ Association, said, ‘‘The purchase of the wheat was started after the dharna and traffic jams by the arhtiyas and the farmers. Now the wheat is not being lifted due to the mismanagement of the agencies. About 4 lakh gunny bags are lying in the open and about 3-4 lakh quintals of wheat has not been packed due to non-availability of ‘bardana’.’’

He said, ‘‘We may be forced to start an agitation if the situation does not improve immediately. We do not have the facility to store a large quantity of wheat and the agencies have not made payments from the past 10 days.’’

Mr Bachittar Singh, commission agent and a farmer, says,‘ ‘About 25-30,000 quintals of wheat are coming to the mandi daily. But the contract for lifting the wheat has been given to a person who don’t have adequate number of trucks. He has engaged tractors and trollies from the local unlicenced farmers against the rule. The contractor is even charging Rs 100 to 200 per trolley from every arhtiya who wants early disposal of wheat from his premises.’’

There is an acute shortage of empty gunny bags. Despite auction, the farmers have been waiting for more than a week for the packing of their wheat. Mr Surjit Singh, a farmer of Dholgarh village, said, ‘‘My 100 quintal wheat was auctioned on April 24, but payments has not been made till today as it has not been lifted by the agencies through the arhtiya concerned is ready to make the full payment.’’

The FCI officials maintain that they are auctioning even the worst variety of wheat. The shortage of ‘bardana’ will soon be removed as a wagon load of it is expected to reach in the next few days. About 10.8 lakh quintal wheat had been purchased till today in the local market as against 11.56 lakh procured last year.

Mr Ranbir Sood, vice president of the association, said that till yesterday DFS had procured 1,63,884, PUNSUP, 84,437, Markfed, 2,11,135, Warehouse, 79072, Punjab Agro, 1,31,793, FCI, 208695 quintals of wheat. The traders had procured only 1356 quintals of wheat.

Incidentally, the quality of wheat has been badly affected due to the rain in the past few days in the region. Mr Sadhu Ram said, ‘‘The colour of wheat has become whitish due to rain and the grains are also broken. But due to strict instructions of the government the agencies are buying it, though it will soon be affected by blight and other diseases.’’

Mr Baldev Singh Latala, secretary, Kisan Sangarsh Committee, also disclosed that the agencies were not even procuring wheat in the far away mandis such as Latala, Ahmadgarh, Pakhowal and Dehlon. The shortage of trucks was a major problem. ‘‘We will be forced to launch an agitation if the situation does not improve within a day or two.


Contract to lift wheat politicised
K.S. Chawla

Ludhiana, May 2
Grain markets in Punjab are facing the problem of lifting procured wheat stocks as there is a glut in the mandis. The problem of lifting of wheat stocks has become acute due to the “politicisation” of labour contracts.

Influential labour contractors and even politicians have entered the business of providing labour for the lifting and transportation of procured wheat stocks. This is a big business now and officials of the procuring agencies have to work under pressure.

The grain markets are receiving more than six lakh tonnes of wheat daily and the wheat arrivals are at their peak. Farmers are not taking any chances and are rushing the produce to the markets fearing rain. They have already suffered huge losses due to untimely rain in April.

According to information, more than 60 lakh tonnes of wheat has arrived in the mandis so far. The officials of the procurement agencies estimate that by the middle of May, the mandis will have about 100 lakh tonnes of wheat. However, the infrastructure to handle wheat operations is not sufficient to cope with the huge arrivals. After wheat stocks arriving in the mandis are procured, they have to be shifted to godowns to make space for fresh arrivals.

All agencies first invite tenders for the labour and transportation of the stocks and then the mandis are allotted to different contractors. Since heavy financial stakes are involved, influential contractors and even politicians have developed an interest in it.

Those belonging to the ruling alliance are “grabbing” major contracts. They manage to get the contracts in “benami”. They further give sub-contracts to the actual labour contractors by taking a commission. As a result, the actual labour contractors or small-time contractors suffer.

Some of the leading political figures have managed to procure these contracts in border districts, Doaba and Malwa regions.

Change in the mandis of the contractors also create problems for officials.

For lifting the stocks, labour and trucks are required. Some of the political bigwigs have their own transport companies and some others hire trucks.

Individual bills for the lifting of stocks run into several lakhs and it is estimated that the total money in such contracts runs into about Rs 100 crore for one season. A similar amount is spent on lifting paddy from the mandis to the godowns.

The FCI has its own permanent labour at the godowns which works from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. while procurement is a round the clock business. It is because of this reason that the glut in the mandis allotted to the FCI is more visible.

According to official estimates of the total wheat arrivals and procured stocks, 25 per cent of the stocks are still lying in these mandis and 25 per cent stocks are lying unsold.

Another problem which arhtiyas face pertains to truck unions in the mandis. Those mandis which have truck unions charge higher rate to lift and transport stocks compared to the mandis where the truck unions are non-existent.

Meanwhile, the procured wheat stocks are being stored in the mandis and the focal points in rural areas. The focal points were carved out by the government for the establishment of small industries but a majority of these are deserted and have failed to develop as industrial centres.

The stocks are also being stored in the open in the rural areas on panchayat lands. The state will have stocks of paddy and wheat to the tune of 300 lakh tonnes by the middle of June.

Meanwhile the procuring agencies in the state have purchased 62 lakh tonnes of wheat so far and the daily arrivals are more than five lakh tonnes.

Disclosing this, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, Food and Supplies Minister said the procurement of wheat was going on smoothly and there was no problem anywhere in its procurement.

Mr Mittal said among the state agencies, Markfed had purchased 21.1 per cent of the total purchase followed by Punsup 19.5 per cent, the Food Supplies Department 10.8 per cent, the Punjab State Warehousing Corporation 12.1 per cent and the Punjab Agro Industries Corporation 11.1 per cent respectively. The Food Corporation has purchased 25.4 per cent. Sangrur was leading in the procurement among all districts with 10,62,123 tonnes, followed by Patiala 7,65,231, Ferozepore- 7,49,829 and Ludhiana-5,38,650 tonnes respectively. Mr Mittal said the State Government was requesting the Central government to create storage facilities in the wheat consuming states move the wheat stocks.

He said he had also urged the Railway Ministry to provide maximum movement of wheat by rails. Mr Mittal admitted that there was negligible buying by the private trade in the state was just 0.1 per cent. 


Fire playing havoc with wheat crop
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 2
Untimely rain and the incidents of fire due to alleged short circuits in the overhead electrical wires have been causing havoc.

Ever since wheat harvesting season started this year rain has been playing havoc with the standing crop and the produce brought in various grain markets of the region. The quality and lustre of the wheat grains has been affected due to repeated rain but the authorities have been maintaining that the damage was ‘partial’ in nature.

Sources in the Agriculture Department revealed that wheat crop in more than 250 acres had been damaged by fire due to various reasons in the current season. The wheat crop is one of the most susceptible to fire. The heat of the season and low moisture content could lead to large scale fire in a short span. The wheat straw catches fire very easily and the farmers were caught in a panicky situation, the sources added.

Inquiries by The Tribune revealed that the causes of fire include short circuits, sparks emitted by the harvester combines and the careless burning of wheat straw by farmers. Sources in the Fire Department said due to high temperature in the season the electrical wires become loose and either due to speedy winds or due to jerks by birds got short-circuited and emit sparks. The sparks were sometimes emitted by the harvester combines due to mechanical heat.

Incidents of fire have been reported almost daily from the region and the three fire tenders available with the local fire department have been running from one point to the other.

During the nine days, between April 21 to 30 more than 20 cases of fire have been reported from the district and more than 50 farmers have been badly affected. Some of the farmers lamented that the incidents of fire were happening every year and alleged that the compensation cases had been pending with the Punjab State Electricity Board (PSEB) for the past many years.

A senior official of the district administration when contracted said if it was proved in any case that the fire had been caused by the negligence of the PSEB the case would be recommended for compensation. Not all cases were due to electrical short circuits, he asserted.


Speed up lifting of wheat: Mittal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The Punjab Food and Supplies Minister, Mr Madan Mohan Mittal, has directed the field staff to make arrangements to expedite the lifting of wheat from various grain markets in the state to make space for the fresh arrival of wheat and to save the procured wheat from inclement weather.

Reports have been received from various parts of the state that because of the slow lifting of wheat, farmers as well as commission agents had been facing problems.

Mr Mittal said wheat had arrived in grain markets in large quantities during the past one week. Over 62 lakh tonnes of wheat had been procured by the government agencies till last evening. Sangrur district, with a procurement figure of 10.6 lakh tonnes so far, topped the list.


Punjab Cong plans rallies
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 2
The Punjab Congress has decided to kick-start its election campaign for the forthcoming assembly poll with a series of rallies next month which will focus on “corruption and fiscal mismanagement” of the SAD-BJP government and its “failure” to tackle the problems faced by the farm and industrial sectors.

Feeling the need to go on the offensive to take on the SAD which is already in election gear with its “sangat darshan” programmes, the Punjab Congress has decided to organise state-level rallies for different sections. 

The rallies will also nail the NDA government on the Tehelka issue.

According to the Punjab Congress chief Capt Amarinder Singh, a PCC meeting would be held on May 7 which would map out party’s signature campaign seeking ouster of the Vajpayee government on the Tehelka issue. 

A rally of the party members of the local bodies would be held at Patiala on May 21 which would be followed by a rally of the traders and industrialists. The party would hold a Scheduled Castes/Backward Class rally on June 3 at Jalandhar and of panchayati raj members on June 14 at Bathinda. 

The party had also been planning a separate rally of the state government employees. Capt Amarinder Singh said that the Congress President Ms Sonia Gandhi, would be invited to address some of these rallies.


PUTA to hold dharna today
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 2
The elected representatives of the Punjabi University Teachers Association (PUTA) will hold a dharna in front of the Vice Chancellors office tomorrow to protest against non implementation of the career advancement scheme (CAS) by the varsity authorities, besides other issues.

In a statement here, the association president, Dr Bhupinder Singh Khaira, and the secretary, Dr Balwinder Singh, said the dharna would also highlight other issues like the disinformation campaign launched by the Vice-Chancellor . Alleging that the Vice-Chancellor was misusing the administrative machinery for ulterior motives, the PUTA leaders said the university publication ‘Darpan’ had been turned into a personal pamphlet.

The PUTA leaders, who have been derecognised by the university management, also refuted a statement released by the university regarding implementation of the CAS. They said according to the seniority list of the varisity, more than 150 teachers were eligible for promotion at various levels. They said more than 90 readers were eligible for professorship since last two years. Numerous persons from this category had retired while many others were on the verge of retirement.

The leaders said during his tenure the VC, Dr J.S. Ahluwalia, had promoted only eight Readers as Professors under the CAS. They said none of these promotees were from the first batch of twenty senior Readers. They also urged the University Chancellor to expedite the inquiry against the VC pending which he should be sent on long leave.

Meanwhile, in a separate release, the Punjab Government College Teachers Association, while announcing, that it would participate in tomorrow’s dharna, accused the VC of violating rules and regulations. Association president Jaipal Singh and secretary Balwinder Singh said the VC was now targeting a minister of the Punjab Government to mask the violation of rules and regulations governing the institution.

The association leaders also came down heavily upon the opening of centres of private companies in the university. It said this kind of practice should be stopped immediately and new departments should be opened, if needed, by following the due varsity rules. They urged that the state government should inquire into this aspect also. They also demanded an immediate withdrawal of the notification derecognising the elected PUTA body in favour of a ‘’rump’’ group which was ‘’elected’’ without following due procedure.

Meanwhile in yet another release, the Punjabi University Employees Association (Non Teaching) condemened the university management for trying to gag their democratic right by putting a ban on speaking to the Press against any Syndicate decision. In a statement here association president Malkit Singh and secretary Tarlochan Kaur demanded that the decision should be withdrawn immediately. The leaders also said that financial decisions regarding allowances taken in their regard by the Syndicate should be implemented immediately.


Forest officials can prosecute hunters
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 2
The state forest officials have been given powers to preserve wildlife and to implement the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972, in the areas other than wildlife sanctuaries.

The orders passed by the Department of Forests and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab, say that the forest officials can now exercise powers under the Act. Earlier only the officials of the Wildlife Department had the right to prosecute those violating the Wildlife Protection Act which prohibits hunting of animals in the forests.

However, the strength of officials in the Wildlife Department was limited due to which poaching and hunting could not be stopped altogether. In the Ropar range, there were just two employees to check hunting in about 42,000 hectare forest area. The Forest Department, which has comparatively more employees, didn’t have the powers to prosecute the hunters. So the government decided to give powers to the Forest Department. The officials of the Wildlife Department would now be responsible for Wildlife conservation only in the sanctuaries.

The Divisional Forest Officer, Ropar, Mr Jasjit Sing Samundari, when contacted, admitted that he had received the orders. He said the government was also in the process of equipping the forest guards with motor cycles and guns so that they could deal with poachers with an iron hand.

The government has redesignated the post of Conservators of Forests-Wildlife (Director Zoo) as Conservator of Forest-Wildlife and Additional Chief Wildlife Warden. The post of DFO (wildlife), Hoshiarpur, has been shifted to headquarters and designated as DFO (wildlife) and Deputy Chief Wildlife Warden, Punjab.

The Divisional Forest Officer (wildlife), Patiala, would now be in charge of all works of animal protection at the Wildlife sanctuaries at Bir Motibagh, Bir Bhuneriheri, Bir Gurdialpura, Bir Bhadson, Bir Mehas, Bir Dosanj (Patiala) and Bir Aishan (Sangrur).

The DFO (wildlife), Harike, will now be in charge of the implementation of the Wildlife Protection Act in Harike, Abohar and Takhni-Rehmpur wildlife sanctuaries. In areas other than the wildlife sanctuaries, forest officials would look after the work of the wildlife preservation. 


Badal wooing voters with money: Brar
Our Correspondent

Mansa, May 2
Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal is trying to woo voters with money. This was stated by Mr Jagmeet Singh Brar, MP and a senior Congress leader, while talking to mediapersons here last evening.

He said Mr Badal was distributing crores of rupees at “sangat darshan” programmes to win over the voters. Money was being distributed by way of grants in the name of development, Mr Brar said.

He alleged that a scam of Rs 78 crore had taken place in the export of wheat to Dubai and the Middle East by Markfed. He alleged public property was being sold by the Badal government at throwaway prices. He claimed Mr Badal sold eight acres of valuable land belonging to a rest house of the Irrigation Department for only Rs 7 lakh, far below the market price, to one of his favourites belonging to Chuharchak village in Moga district.

He demanded the payment of subsidy directly to farmers.

Mr Brar said that the possibility of the Congress entering into an electoral alliance with the CPI and the CPM could not be ruled out. He also favoured an alliance with the BSP.

He said to achieve unity and to defeat the SAD-BJP combine, leaders of the Congress, including its eight MPs, were holding a series of meetings one such meeting had already been held at Patiala.

Leaders devoid of vision: Bhatia
Our Correspondent

Amritsar, May 2
The former Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr R.L. Bhatia, said the BJP-led alliance at the Centre had a very poor national perspective. This was stated by him while addressing a large gathering of intellectuals here yesterday. He lamented that the present government was devoid of any vision thus forcing the country towards chaotic conditions.

He said in a democratic set up, it was the people who have an ultimate role to bring any party or alliance in power.

Commenting on the crisis ridden government, Mr Bhatia felt that the government was totally alienated from the masses and added that the intellectual input was important for taking some crucial decisions for the betterment of the society. For this the government must be open to dissent, shun corruption and work for the welfare of the people.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Ambedkar Chair at Guru Nanak Dev University, Dr Harish Puri, cautioned the people of the dangers which lay ahead as the governments were unable to provide basic needs like food, clothing, medicare and education thus depriving the masses of their fundamental rights.

Maj General Harinder Singh (retd) commenting on the Tehelka expose said all officers above the rank of Brigadier and its equivalent in all forces, including the civilian officers must file their list of assets and this should be made mandatory. There have to be some kind of deterence for those in power. The General added that the government must evolve a long-term strategy for deploying nuclear weapons.

Mrs Ratna, general secretary of the PPCC, while addressing the gathering felt that educated people must be elected in the state Assemblies and in Parliament to change the complexion of the august bodies. 


Amarinder calls party meeting
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The president of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, Capt Amarinder Singh, has convened a meeting of all office-bearers, former presidents, members of the PPCC, former Chief Ministers, AICC members from the state, MPs, MLAs, PCC members, district presidents and heads of front organisations at Punjab Congress Bhavan here on May 7.

Mrs Lakhwinder Kaur Garcha, general secretary of the party, said the meeting had been called to review the second phase of the agitation launched against the Vajpayee government to seek its resignation. She said Capt Ajay Singh Yadav, observer appointed by the AlCC, would also attend the meeting. She said a campaign had been launched in the state to collect the maximum number of signatures against the Vajpayee government.


Jagmeet Brar’s proposal flayed
Tribune News Service

Patiala, may 2
Senior Congress leader and party General Secretary Sant Ram Singla today flayed the proposal mooted by party MP Jagmeet Singh Brar to form a pressure group of Sikh MPs in Parliament.

In a statement here, Mr Sant Ram Singla said the proposal was a dangerous one and could have serious ramifications.

Meanwhile, in a press note, former PUNSUP Chairman Brij Lal Goel appealed to the state Congress leadership to counter the Sangat Darshan exercise started by the ruling Akali-BJP alliance by launching a mass awareness campaign in the state. Mr Goel said the Akali-BJP combine was trying to befool the people of the state.


Scheme to rehabilitate disabled launched
Tribune News Service

Sangrur, May 2
Mr Gobind Singh Kanjhla, Social Security Minister, Punjab, launched the national programme for the rehabilitation of the disabled for the Sangrur district at a function here today.

Addressing the function, Mr Kanjhla said the Union Government had selected 100 districts in the country under the programme, of which, two districts — Sangrur and Ropar — were from Punjab.

He said Sangrur had become the first district in the state today which had launched the programme for the rehabilitation of the disabled.

The minister said the state government had issued instructions to the SSPs of all districts to take effective steps to provide justice to all disabled women, who were victims of any type of atrocity. He said the state government would take steps for calling only eligible disabled candidates to appear in interviews for any specialised posts.

Regarding the sanctioning of pensions to the ineligible candidates, Mr Kanjhla asked the Deputy Commissioners, that in case, any such case came to their notice, an FIR should be lodged against the candidate, besides recovering entire pension amount from him or her. He asked Mr R.L. Kalsia, Director, Social Security, Punjab, to review pension cases so that only eligible candidates should get pension.

Mr Kanjhla said a centre for the manufacturing of artificial limbs would be set up here soon.

Mr Kalsia said his department had got conducted a survey of the disabled in the state.

He said there were 2,47,000 disabled persons of all categories in the state, of which 1,45,076 were physically handicapped while the remaining disabled persons included mentally retarded, deaf and dumb and blind persons.

Mr Kalsia said Union Government had released Rs 62 lakh for this programme to the Sangrur district. He said a cheque had been handed over to the Sangrur district administration today.

Mr Sarvjit Singh, Deputy Commissioner, said, under this programme, more than 15,000 disabled persons would be covered in the district. He said the proposed centre for the manufacturing of artificial limbs would provide artificial limbs to disabled persons free of cost.


Japanese aid for Kandi region
Our Correspondent

Hoshiarpur, May 2
The Punjab government will step up overall development of 180 villages, identified as the most backward of the Kandi area, with the help of the Japanese government shortly.

This was stated by Mr Surjit Kumar Jiani, Forest Minister, Punjab, while addressing a public meeting at Bajwara village, 5 km from here, yesterday. He said of these villages 90 were from the Hoshiarpur district.

Mr Jiani said in future, people of the Kandi region would be allowed to take 25 per cent of the natural growth of babar grass from the forest area, free of cost. He said the state government would soon take a decision to allow the felling of those trees which were not producing any fruit.

Mr Tikshan Sud, State Minister of Excise & Taxation, Punjab, said Kandi and the submountane area was the most backward in the state. He added that special schemes had been framed to raise the standard of living of the people.

Mr Iqbal Singh Sidhu, Deputy Commissioner, said the list of problems and needs of the selected villages had already been prepared. He said solar lights, educational, health and drinking water facilities would be provided and construction of roads would soon be started under the project. He added that encroachments from more than 200 acres of forest land had been removed.


Court orders sale of DIC building
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Bathinda, May 2
Mr Chanan Singh, Additional District Judge, has ordered the sale of the building of the District Industries Centre (DIC) for executing the decree awarded to four residents of the city.

According to the order delivered on April 21, a copy of which was procured by TNS today, to effect the recovery of the amount awarded to the decree holders, the building of the DIC which was attached on June 7, 1988, was directed to be put to sale through a public auction on May 16 or May 17 after due notice and publicity through affixation and munadi in the locality.

The order said the defendant through the General Manager, Industries Department, near ITI Bathinda, failed to execute the decree despite the fact that immoveable property of the department had been attached long time ago.

The joint defendants had also availed more than due opportunities. It would also be desirable if the amount of the interest to be paid by the respondent-state on the decretal amount was recovered from the pay and emoluments of the officials/officers concerned who had been sitting over the matter since long.

According to the facts of the case, the four, namely Kanwal Kumar, Ashok Kumar, Tarsem Chand and Surinder Mohan, all residents of Bathinda, were awarded the decree of compensation in lieu of the acquisition of their piece of land and building for setting up a unit.

On September 16, 1986, the claimants were declared to be entitled to get compensation at the rate of Rs 5000 per acre. They were also entitled to compensation for other structure and 12 per cent interest per annum on such market value for the period of commencement and date of publication of the notification under Section 4 (1) of the Act to the date of the award of the Collector or the date of taking possession whichever was earlier, 30 per cent solatium under Section 23 (2) of the Act and also interest at the rate of 9 per cent per annum for a period of one year from the date of taking possession of the acquired land and thereafter at the rate of 15 per cent per annum up to the date of payment.


Gurdaspur has most AIDS cases
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
Gurdaspur district tops the list of AIDS cases in the state. However, Amritsar district has the maximum number of HIV positive cases.

According to information available at the official level, the latest figure of AIDS cases in Gurdaspur is 36. It is closely followed by Amritsar district.

Districts in the Malwa belt like Muktsar, Bathinda, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mansa, Ropar and Moga have the distinction of being completely free from AIDS cases. The number of such cases is also insignificant in Faridkot, Nawanshahr and Hoshiarpur districts.

Informed sources said that according to the latest figures collected by the Health Department, the number of full-blown AIDS cases had touched 128 in the state whereas the number of HIV positive cases was over 2,800. In fact, the state had registered a fast growth of AIDS as well as HIV positive cases in spite of tall claims made by the authorities with regard to the distribution of literature and other material as part of the campaign against AIDS. The number of AIDS cases in the state was well below 20 in 1998, according to the sources.

What should be a cause for worry among the Health authorities and the state government is the high number of HIV positive cases in the state. Amritsar district tops the chart with 1,034 cases according to statistics released by the government. The number of such cases in Ludhiana is over 800.

Though migrant labour is often blamed by all concerned for the spread of AIDS in the state, the fact is that the number of AIDS as well as HIV positive cases is far less in Ludhiana than in Amritsar and Gurdaspur districts. Gurdaspur is a non-industrial district where the flow of migrant labour is minimal as compared to Ludhiana city, which has the maximum population of migrant labour.

The official district wise details of AIDS cases are as follows:

Amritsar (31), Ferozepore (9), Gurdaspur (36), Nawanshahr (3), Patiala (6), Sangrur (4), Hoshiarpur (3), Jalandhar ( 10), Faridkot ( 2), Ludhiana (19), Kapurthala (5), and Fatehgarh Sahib, Mansa, Muktsar, Bathinda, Moga, Ropar and Mansa (nil).

The district wise number of HIV positive cases is as follows:

Amritsar (1034), Bathinda (44), Ferozepore (26), Gurdaspur (32), Mansa (12), Nawanshahr (129), Patiala (395), Ropar ( 5), Moga (37), Sangrur (20), Hoshiarpur (52), Jalandhar (184), Faridkot (24), Ludhiana (804), Kapurthala (23), Fatehgarh Sahib (9) and Muktsar (5).

It is difficult to determine how many industrial workers and migrant labourers are suffering from AIDS in the state. Informed sources said the authorities had not compiled separate data in this regard. Likewise, no exclusive data was available on HIV positive cases among these sections.

Meanwhile, Health Department sources said more than 250 posts of doctor were vacant in civil hospitals and dispensaries despite government promises to fill all vacant posts in the state. In Bathinda district over 50 posts were vacant whereas the number in Ferozepore was over 60 and in Gurdaspur nearly 40.

In Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts no post was vacant while Ropar and Ludhiana districts had two and one, respectively. The number of vacant posts in Mansa district was 20. Muktsar had the same number followed by Faridkot (16).


Rally raises workers’ demands
Our Correspondent

Ropar, May 2
Leaders of the Punjab State Karamchari Dal have demanded the regularisation of the services of about 14,000 work charge or daily wage workers who have been working for three or more years in various state government departments.

At a state-level function held here last evening, Mr Hari Singh Tohra, president of the union, alleged that though the government had issued the notification on January 23 this year that the workers’ services be regularised, it has not been implemented as yet.

Mr Balwant Singh Kohli, adviser of the union, alleged that the bureaucracy had jeopardised the original form and motive of the notification by adding a clause that the services of work charge or daily wage workers would be regularised only where the sanctioned posts existed for the purpose. Most of the workers had been working in their respective departments for at lest three years. Then how was it that now no post existed, Mr Kohli questioned.

The karamchari dal had organised the function to mark the Labour Day. Besides members from all over the state, the function was attended by the Finance Minister, Punjab, Capt Kanwaljit Singh, and the Minister for Printing and Stationery, Bibi Satwant Kaur Sandhu.

The union leaders also brought up the issue of minimum wages. They alleged that the government had raised the minimum wages in Punjab to Rs 2,000 last year. However, the amount was not being paid to the labour in any district, except Patiala. They also complained that the minimum wage was unrealistic and paltry. It should be linked with inflation and increased each year, accordingly.

Mr Gurpreet Singh Sodhi, a union leader from Sirhind, accused the Labour Minister, Punjab, of being anti-worker. A union leader from Gurdaspur claimed that if the Akali minister from the area did not mend his ways, the ruling party would be wiped out in the area in next elections. The leaders from Fazilka spoke against the Forest Minister.


Taxation office to be shifted
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 2
The excise and taxation authorities of the city have started looking for an alternative accommodation in the city after the Punjab and Haryana High Court had declared that the present office site was a part of the judicial complex of the city.

Sources in the office said it had been decided by the district administration to shift the office to the building of the Agriculture Office on the Dabwali road of the city in the coming few days. The new office to be allotted to the taxation office need repairs and was lacking many facilities, the sources added.

The high court has directed the Deputy Commissioner to get the premises vacated from the taxation authorities. The office of the Sales and Taxation Department will be allotted a permanent site in the district administration complex, the construction of which is yet to begin and may take a few years.

Mr R.D. Gupta, President, Punjab Chemists’ Association, said the proposed new office of the sales and taxation was more than 6 km away from the city and would lead to numerous difficulties. The traders had to visit the office many a time in a day and shifting it out of the city would be a torture for the businessmen, he added.

Mr Upjit Singh Brar, Assistant Excise and Taxation Officer, when contacted said: “We had received suggestions and representations from the business community and will keep these in mind while shifting. No time frame has, however, been decided.


Lakhanpur barrier toll a burden
Ravi Bhushan Puri

Pathankot, May 2
The toll imposed at the Lakhanpur barrier on the incoming and outgoing vehicles at this Jammu and Kashmir-Punjab border is a big burden on daily or regular commuters.

The fee is Rs 50 for every light transport vehicle, Rs 100 for an HTV and Rs 33 per quintal for the gods transported through the barrier in and out of J&K. Particularly hit are the inhabitants of Sujanpur, Bamial, Narot Jaimal Singh segments of Pathankot, who have to pass this barrier twice a day as there is no alternative transport link with other parts of Punjab due to the rivers and lack of bridges over them.

The same is the position of the people from Samba. Thousands of persons living on this border belt are being burden with this tax.

Pilgrims from across the country who come to visit the holy places in the state also have to dole out excessive amounts as the toll tax.

To make matters worse, the behaviour of officials at the barrier is allegedly insulting and derogatory and complaints in this regard are not being looked into.

Mr Surjit Singh Rana, local resident and legal expert, criticised the Central Government for permitting the state to continue with the practice of imposing excessive toll.

He stated that the imposition of such a tax was unconstitutional and against the spirit of national integration.

The residents of the area are unanimous in demanding the termination of this toll.

Mr Dev Raj, an other resident, complained that items to be exempted from toll tax are selected on political considerations. This requires an investigation at the highest level, he said.


PWD workers chalk out plan for rally
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 2
The PWD Field and Workshop Workers Union today held a meeting of its members at the main water works complex in Mansa to chalk out programme for the May 3 rally at the office of the Chief Engineer at Patiala.

Mr Suresh Sharma, president of the state unit, while addressing the workers, said the Chief Engineer was not implementing the orders of the Punjab Government that all daily wage workers should be made permanent.


Youths to set up blood bank
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 2
As many as 52 rural youth clubs of Jalandhar and Kapurthala districts have decided to set up a blood bank here.

The proposed blood bank is likely to start functioning from July Mr Amrik Singh Kler, President of the Blood Donors and Welfare Society, Punjab said.

Members of these clubs during a meeting here yesterday decided that a club should be set up at Jalandhar since people of the area were facing a lot of problems in procuring blood in the event of an accident.

Mr Pal Singh Nauli, general secretary of the society, said Baba Karnail Singh, a UK-based saint, had already donated about eight marlas of land for the purpose near Reru Chowk.


Efforts to extricate buried men on
Our Correspondent

Barnala, May 2
Even after about 33 hours, the Barnala administration has not been able to extricate labourers Manjit Singh and Manpreet Khan who got buried under 55 feet deep soil while bricklining a well following the slipping soil in Hamidi village near here, on Tuesday morning.

Mr N.S. Walia, Sub-divisional Magistrate (SDM), Barnala, informed this evening that rescue measure operations were in progress round the clock.

The JPC machine failed to deliver results after 20 feet because of the soil being very soft and sandy.

Residents of Hamidi and surrounding villages too started pouring in at the site of mishap with tractor-trolleys to speed up rescue measures.

According to reports, Armymen too were requisitioned assist.

In Gharacho village near Bhawanigarh town some persons trapped in such a mishap were extricated alive after 89 hours of sinking deep into soil. There, the soil was quite hard and had pores which enabled trapped victims to breathe.


Jaundice claims youth’s life
Our Correspondent

Jalandhar, May 2
Jaundice has reportedly claimed a life in the Suchi Pind locality here. However, the Civil Surgeon, Dr D.P.S. Sandhu, said he was not aware about the death of Amarjit Singh (35) due to jaundice.

Dr Gurmail Singh of Janta Hospital, where the patient was reportedly admitted and died on Monday night, was tight-lipped about the incident and has denied that any such patient was admitted to his hospital in the past fortnight.

Dr Sandhu said that the spread of jaundice in some parts of the city could be due to the supply of contaminated drinking water to the residents.

Dr Vinay Dheer, a private practitioner in the Kishanpura locality, was treating Amarjit Singh for the 15 days before the patient was shifted to Janta Hospital five days back.

More than 50 residents of different localities are being treated for jaundice in various private clinics of the city. The Civil Surgeon termed it as a routine and said there was nothing to be concerned about the matter.


Erosion damages border fence
Our Correspondent

Gurdaspur, May 2
Land erosion due to the flow of the Ujh and Tarna continues to be a security threat in view of the lack of flood-control measures. The Kachla complex on the Ujh, bordering Jammu and Kashmir, is the worst-hit. The washing away of land in more than six villages, including Mammia, Cheba, Taash, Bharyal and Lasaian has caused a considerable damage to fencing on the border.

A BSF picket continues to be under constant threat of land erosion. Personnel posted at the picket said land erosion was more during the rainy season. Incidentally, the picket has a memorial in the name of constable Kanwal Jit Singh, of the 20 BSF Battalion, who sacrificed his life during the Indo-Pak war on December 4, 1971.

According to sources, the district Drainage Department has identified the flood-control measures to be implemented. Funds in this regard are likely to be released soon. Mr B. Vikram, Deputy Commissioner, said the measures would be executed soon after funds were received from the central and state governments. He added that a team of NABARD had visited the area and approved most of the works on the two rivers.


Prof Piara Singh Padam cremated
Tribune News Service

Patiala, May 2
The Shiromani Sahitkar award-winner, Prof Piara Singh Padam, 80, was cremated at the Ghalori gate cremation ground here today.

Prof Piara Singh Padam, a renowned Punjabi scholar and recipient of the prestigious Shiromani award for 2001, had passed away at his residence here last night. The scholar had suffered a massive heart attack and had been rushed to the local Rajindra hospital, where he was declared “brought dead”.

The cremation was attended by people from all walks of life, including renowned scholars and others. Wreaths were laid on behalf of the Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, by Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Chief Minister. Dr Madan Lal Hasija, Director of the State Languages Department represented the Secretary (Languages), Mr Bhagat Singh and the Punjabi University Vice-Chancellor Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia was represented by the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Mr Ram Murti Goel. Wreaths were also laid on behalf of the Punjabi Sahit Sabha by Principal Mohan Singh Prem.

Prominent among scholars who were present on the occasion were Dr Harcharan Singh, Chairman Punjab Arts Council; Dr Gurcharan Singh, former chairman of the Punjab School Education Board; Prof Kulwant Singh Grewal, Head of the Punjabi Department of Punjabi University; Dr Kuldip Singh Dhir, Dean (academics), Punjabi University; Mr Balbir Bedi, President of the Punjabi Sabhaycharak Manch and Mr Zora Singh Brar, former Chairman of the Punjab State Electricity Board.

Later, a meeting of literary organisations, including the Punjabi Sahit Sabyachar Manch, Punjabi Sahit Sabha, Patiala unit and the Adhara Majlis, was held, in which Punjabi University was urged to take care of the books and other literary works of Prof Piara Singh Padam.


CM mourns death of Prof Piara Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The Punjab Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, has expressed grief over the death of the famed Punjabi scholar, Prof Piara Singh Padam.

Describing Professor Padam as a distinguished literary figure, Mr Badal said the state had suffered a big loss in his death.

The Shiromani Akali Dal has also expressed sorrow over his death. Mr Kirpal Singh Badungar, secretary of the party, said professor Padam made a useful contribution to Punjabi literature by writing more than 50 books. He touched all issues, including political, religious and social, in his writings. He was also a recognised critic. 


3 cops hurt in accident
Our Correspondent

Phillaur, May 2
Three personnel of the Kapurthala police, escorting the New Delhi bound Lahore-Delhi Sada-e-Sarhad but sustained minor injuries when the Canter on which they were riding turned turtle at Muthadda village near here last evening.

Those injured have been identified as Kulwinder Singh, driver, Ashok Kumar and Prem Kumar, constables. They were discharged after first aid, the police said.

The accident took place when escort vehicle which was going on a high speed, overturned while negotiating a curve, the police said.


Punjab plan to strengthen PR Dept
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, May 2
The Punjab Government has formulated a master plan to strengthen the existing infrastructure of the Public Relations Department. The Information and Public Relations Minister, Mr Natha Singh Dalam, said today that computers had been installed in Amritsar, Bathinda, Fatehgarh Sahib, Faridkot, Nawanshahr, Ropar districts and the Internet facility had been provided at Ludhiana.

For better preparation of press notes, the press section have been bifurcated in vernacular and English sections. Newsreels to exhibit the development of the state are being prepared.


Coop officials cheat govt
Chander Parkash
Tribune News Service

Kotkapura, May 2
The local police has registered a criminal case against Secretary Iqbal Singh of Cooperative Agriculture Service Society (CASS) Bada Daraka village and Sub-inspector Avtar Singh, Inspector Baldev Singh and Assistant Registrar Surinder Singh Bedi (Cooperative Societies) for allegedly pocketing government money worth lakhs of rupees by showing loanees as dead under the loan waiver scheme launched in 1990-91.

Police sources said a case under Section 408, 420, 465, 468, 471 and 120-B of the IPC has been registered against these officials. Under the loan waiver scheme these officials swindled the government out of lakhs of rupees by showing loanees as dead in their record. Any loanee who had taken loan to the tune of Rs 10,000 and could not pay the amount in the past three years was to get benefit of the scheme.

The officials allegedly tampered with the record of the CASS showing 22 loanees as dead despite the fact that they were alive. Iqbal Singh forged the documents relating to waiving off of the loan. Avtar Sing verified the list of 22 loanees which were shown dead. Baldev Singh and Surinder Singh Bedi recommended the waiving off.

The racket came to light when Mr Malkit Singh, a member of the CASS, received a notice of recovery of loan amount due against him. On enquiring, he alleged, he could not get satisfactory reply from the officials. He approached the higher authorities and came to know that the loan was taken in his name by Iqbal Singh.

He lodged a complaint with the police stating that he had been shown dead in the record.

The SHO at Sadar Police Station, when contacted, said no arrest had been made so far in this connection.


Two attempt suicide
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 2
Two persons, a man and a girl, today attempted to commit suicide by taking celphos tablets under mysterious circumstances at Jodhpur village. They were admitted to a local Civil Hospital where their condition was stated to be serious.

Hospital sources said Rajinder Singh, (30), a resident of Dhuri town in Sangrur and Jaswinder Kaur, (18), a resident of Moga, were brought to the hospital by the volunteers of the Sahara Jan Seva in a serious condition.

The hospital sources added that Rajinder Singh was an employee of a rice mill at Dabwali in Haryana and was married and had a child of about four years. Their relatives were informed about the incident but none of them reached the hospital, although the local relatives of Rajinder were present in the hospital but they did not disclose anything.

A senior government official who had come to enquire about the incident and had recorded their statement did not divulge any details to the press. It is learnt that the girl’s father was a police officer posted in Moga district. 


Murder mystery solved
Tribune News Service

Faridkot, May 2
The district police has solved the mystery behind the blind murder of Harchand Singh, a resident of Sikhwala village, with the arrest of his son Ranjit Singh here today.

Police sources said they were groping in dark after the body whose arms were tied was found on the Sikhwala-Bhana road on April 23.

The body which was wrapped in a cloth was identified as that of Harchand Singh by the villagers. It bore injury marks on its head. A piece of cloth was stuffed in the mouth of the deceased.

Dr Arun Oaron, SSP, in a press note issued here today, said the accused Ranjit Kumar, son of the deceased, who had alleged committed the crime had been arrested today.

Mr Bhupinder Singh Khatra, DSP, pointed out that Harchand Singh, who was having illicit relations with his daughter-in-law (wife of Ranjit Singh), had also been facing a criminal case as his daughter-in-law had allegedly committed suicide. The deceased, Harchand Singh was acquitted due to a compromise reached with the complainants. Harchand Singh had given a piece of agriculture land to his grandsons.

On the intervening night of April 22 and 23, the accused, Ranjit Singh, administered sleeping pills to his second son and took out the handle of a handpump installed in his house. The accused gave a forceful blow of handle on the head of Harchand Singh, who died within few minutes.

Then the accused wrapped the body in a cloth and took it to a nearby canal.

Dr Oaron said after investigations, it was found that Ranjit Singh had murdered his father. A case has been registered in this connection.


Students seriously hurt in scuffle
Our Correspondent

Bathinda, May 2
Jagsir Singh, student of the local Government Rajindra College (GRC) received head injuries when he, along with four other students was reportedly beaten up by members of the Mini Bus Operators Union (MBOU) near a level crossing on the outskirts of the city this morning.

Jagsir Singh was admitted to the local civil hospital. He told The Tribune that he has got seven stitches in the head. Gurpal Singh, who studies in the local ITI, suffered a fracture in his thigh while Aparpal Singh and Jagdev Singh, both students of ITI, and Iqbal Singh, student of GRC, were left with bruises. The condition of none of them was serious, according to the doctors attending them.

The students said that when they were coming towards the city in a private mini-bus, it was stopped by members of MBOU near the Delhi phatak outside the city. They alleged that the union members were carrying wooden planks and other blunt weapons.

The students said that the MBOU members asked them to show the tickets. They replied since they were students of various institutions of the city, they had not purchased the ticket. But they agreed to buy the tickets from the conductor.

However, the union members allegedly started abusing them and beat them with wooden planks. The students alleged that although Jagsir Singh was bleeding, the operators did not make any arrangement for his treatment, but made them sit in their office.

The students said that the union members took away their identity cards and money before letting them go.

Leaders of the ITI students’ union who were present in the civil hospital said that they would hold a meeting soon and would chalk out a programme in the wake of the attack by the bus operators on the students.

Mr Balraj Singh, President, MBOU, when contacted said that the students had framed a false story. He said that the members of the union were on routine check-up duty and when they found that some of the passengers of the bus were without tickets, they asked them to buy the same. He alleged that the students refused to do so and said that they were not supposed to buy tickets because they were students.

When an argument was going on between the two parties, Jagsir Singh slapped one of the union members and when they tried to catch him he started running away. He said that while doing so he fell down and his head hit the railway track, injuring him.

He said that their identity cards were taken in possession only to ascertain that they were the students, but denied taking any money from them. No case has yet been registered in this connection.

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